Traditions.....

It’s that time of year – birthday time – when my daughter asks only for one thing, that I make her favorite cake, Boston Cream Pie. There’s only been one year in the last 13 that I’ve not made her birthday cake. That was what I call the “Coveting Year”, the year she discovered that some people have store-bought cakes for their birthdays. It wasn’t the store-bought concept that attracted her, but instead, the decorating.

Walking through the Costco bakery, always a child who was wonderful at memory games, she jumped excitedly at the Costco refrigerated sheetcake cooler, pointing at one particularly garish, “Happy Birthday” rainbow cake which had enough red #40 to cause behavioral disorders for the next 20 years. “That’s it! That’s it! That’s the cake Margret had for her birthday! And I want one just like it! No! No! There’s one with balloons! Oh, how I love balloons. May we please have THAT cake this year, Mommy? Please?”

At that point, we still had 9 long weeks before the Blessed Event. She became more obsessed with the notion, cutting decorated cake pictures out of magazines, chopping holes in the middle of the Costco magazine, transporting cakes from their pages to her persuasive letter-writing campaign sent to me. “Dear Mommy. In order to give you a break from all the cooking you do, I’d like a Costco cake.”

I tried several approaches including, we could decorate our own cake (“Hmmm. That just doesn’t seem like you, Mommy”), or we could buy ready-made decorations and put them on our own cake, (she “had those at one party and they were hard and dried out”) or, maybe we could just skip the entire cake idea this year and go for chocolate meringue pie, no, TWO chocolate merginue pies and I’d cut the pieces TWICE as large!

It’s amazing how soon rituals and traditions become ingrained in a child’s life. The pie suggestion earned me a, “That’s silly. Everybody has cake.”

I even resorted to reading her the list of ingredients, during one particularly stressful visit to Costco when she was ready to fill out the order and sign on the dotted line, with or without me – corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, more sugar, high fructose corn syrup in addition to the corn syrup and sugar, nothing organic, enough chemicals, dyes and preservatives to embalm all of ancient Egypt – with the end result that nothing phased her. “Yeah. I know. It’s all bad. But it’s only for one birthday”, she insisted.

Well, I bought one. We served it. Our experience was exactly like that that of an LA Times article:

“My teeth hurt,” said one taster after swallowing. “My soul hurts,” said another. It was heavy and terribly sweet and coated the palate. We wondered whether it would even pass muster with 6-year-olds.

“I don’t feel so well,” said a third taster.

We looked at the list of ingredients on each of the three cakes. It was long and, frankly, scary.

We asked Times Health Editor Tami Dennis to weigh in. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this is not healthy,” she said. “Tastes like sweetened Crisco to me.”

It did to us too. With a long disodium phosphate finish.

This year, her 13th birthday, she said, “I don’t need presents. I don’t need a card. I don’t even need a dinner at a nice restaurant, like we sometimes do. But I really, really need your Boston Cream Pie.” And this year, we made it side-by-side, stirring, whisking, infusing the milk with the sliced vanilla bean, and best of all, sampling little tastes of our creation, with her declaring it simply wouldn’t feel like her birthday without “Mom’s Boston Cream Pie”.


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